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New Peugeot 9X8 Aimed at Ending BoP “Dependency”

Olivier Jansonnie explains why Peugeot felt it had no choice but to abandon ‘wingless’ 9X8 concept…

Photo: Peugeot

Peugeot technical chief Olivier Jansonnie says that the introduction of the updated 9X8 2024 is aimed at ending the French manufacturer’s dependency on a favorable Balance of Performance in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The revised 9X8, which features a rear wing for the first time as part of a radically revised aero concept, was revealed on Monday ahead of its competition debut in the second round of the WEC season next month at Imola.

Peugeot struggled for consistency with the original ‘wingless’ iteration of the car, performing well at certain tracks – notably scoring its first and so far only WEC podium last year at Monza last year – and proving off the pace at others.

Arguably the car’s best performance came last time out in this month’s Qatar season opener, which marked the final outing for the original 9X8, although a late refueling issue denied Jean-Eric Vergne, Nico Mueller and Mikkel Jensen a likely second-place finish.

Jansonnie pointed out that Peugeot was running at the minimum permissible weight of 930 kg and maximum power of 520kW (around 697bhp) under the Hypercar regulations at the Lusail International Circuit, which also suited the 9X8 well owing to a lack of slow-speed corners and smooth track surface.

“The main factor for the decision to change the car is to rely less on the BoP, and to do something that puts us much closer in terms of car concept to our competition, so that we can be in the performance ballpark regardless of what the BoP is doing,” Jansonnie told selected media including Sportscar365.

“We still think it was possible to balance the old car concept, unfortunately this was not done in 2023, and we wanted to get rid of this dependency on the BoP, so that we aren’t depending on specific track layout or specific conditions, specific weather as well.

“We wanted to put the car back in a much more ‘average’ window and more similar to the competition, and to raise the overall performance of the car so we don’t end up, like we were in Qatar, in the ‘corner’ of the BoP with maximum power, lowest weight.

“We expect the pace of the field to increase with many competitors pushing for performance. We need to be ready for that and give ourselves some potential for the years to come.”

Central to the decision to revamp the 9X8 was the decision by the WEC’s rulemakers to allow a new tire dimension option of 29cm at the front and 34cm at the rear, having initially stipulated 31cm tires all round when the car was being designed.

Jansonnie said that while Peugeot knew running 31cm-wide tires would put it at a disadvantage, its initial belief was that the BoP would compensate for this.

“At the time, the only data we had to evaluate this difference was simulation models from Michelin,” he explained. “On our side, we hadn’t tested; we hadn’t compared properly the two tire dimensions.

“We identified there was an advantage for 29/34, but very clearly we underestimated it. The model was telling us the gap was much closer than what we found when we did the first test on track by ourselves.

“In the end, our answer was that the tires were not equal, but that it was possible to balance the car using a clever BoP. If you look at what happened in Qatar, it shows exactly that you can find a solution with the BoP to balance the existing car.

“When you look at what happened in 2023, we struggled most of the season, mostly because of this tire dimension issue, in all of the locations with low speed traction [zones]. This was clearly our big weakness.

“Looking back now at when we took the decision to develop this new car in March 2023, it was obvious that the only way to get out of this trap we were in was to use the same tire dimension as our competitors, to get in a BoP position similar to them.”

Jansonnie added that Peugeot was able to extract “everything we can think of” from the ‘wingless’ concept in terms of performance at Qatar, and that continuing with the original 9X8 would not have been the right thing to do even after such a strong showing.

“Our feeling is that it’s possible to do it on most of the tracks, but this unfortunately we will never know,” said Jansonnie. “The question mark is whether what happened in Qatar could be replicated at other tracks.

“I would say probably yes, although we have no evidence of that. But again, it would be a very risky gamble from us, because we are relying heavily on the BoP, which has not been very successful for us so far.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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